Fundamental challenges in academic–government partnership in conflict research in the pastoral lowlands of Ethiopia

Fundamental challenges in academic–government partnership in conflict research in the pastoral lowlands of Ethiopia

The Ethiopian government continuously calls for policy-relevant research. However, this admission of policy challenges and attempts to fill the gap cannot ignore the political economy and power dynamics in Ethiopia. This article discusses challenges to an impactful partnership with government, drawing from the experiences of the ‘conflict working group’, the ESRC-DFID-funded project ‘Shifting In/equality Dynamics in Ethiopia: from Research to Application’ (SIDERA). The authors argue that research should empower communities; however, to government, research is a tool to buttress efforts to ‘secure’ and ‘pacify’ the lowlands to eventually facilitate extraction. The article also addresses the lack of consensus on basic concepts such as conflict. The authors argue that it is a rational response to environmental change and state-led dispossessions, while to government, mit is an expression of ‘backwardness’ and ‘irrationality’. The development of a meaningful partnership in this context was dependent on navigating meanings and power relations.

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